Author Archives: Amy

Flint Creek GHOW release

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation released a rehabilitated Great Horned Owl at a public event in Winnetka, Illinois on Saturday, November 20th. I handled Justice, a GHOW in Flint Creek’s education program, as the program began. Then fellow volunteer Kim took Justice and spoke to the crowd, which included a lot of kids.

Amy and Justice

Kim and Justice

After the program, it was time for the rehabilitated GHOW (nicknamed Winnetka) to be released. Although released facing some nearby trees, the bird turned and flew over the crowd, which was a thrill for everyone.

Some press photographers and reporters were there and the story or photos were published online in a few places:

I’m thankful for a lot of things in my life, including family, friends, health and happiness. I’m thankful I found Flint Creek Wildlife this year and that I’m able to help in my own small way. I’m thankful that Winnetka is flying free today. Happy Thanksgiving, readers and fellow bird lovers.

Amy and Justice

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A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 4)

We had so much fun visiting the parrots at the Papegaaienpark. During our visit, we got to meet lots and lots of parrots. But the facility is home to more than parrots. The park also takes in unwanted zoo animals, other unwanted exotic pets, and animals confiscated by the Dutch customs authorities at points of entry.

Unflighted birds were scattered throughout different open-air habitats in the park. Some were freely walking among the visitors, while others, like the Emu and the Chicubas, were separated by moats or fences.

Red-crowned Cranes
Red-crowned Cranes mingled with ducks, pelicans, and others

Red-breasted Goose
A small group of Red-breasted Geese crossed the path in front of us

Chicubas shared space with a Bar-headed Goose

Emu looking at you

Others were kept inside large outdoor aviaries.

Bald Eagles
A pair of Bald Eagles shared a HUGE aviary

Snowy Owl
This Snowy Owl preferred to stand on the ground

Several times, I walked by a large aviary holding several vulture species. The weather that day was partly cloudy, with a few showers here and there. The last time I walked by the vulture aviary, the sun was shining, and you know what vultures do when the sun comes out… Look at that second sweetheart, sunning herself just like a vulture ought to.

King Vulture
King Vulture in the sun

King Vulture with wing amputation
King Vulture taking in the sun

The final area to visit in the park is a huge building, where several tropical species were housed. Many were free-flighted, but remained wary of people and didn’t approach. Visitors weren’t allowed to feed these birds. The TropiJoy building also had many enclosed aviaries for lots of different bird species.

Sunbittern perched on a railing!

Red-billed Toucan
Red-billed Toucan

Pygmy Owl
Impossibly small at just 6.5″: Peruvian Pygmy Owl!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo-heavy mini-series on our visit to the Papegaaienpark in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. It makes me sad that such a place is necessary in this world, but the staff, volunteers, and residents make it a wonderful place to visit. We’ll certainly be back.

Me leaving the park

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Parrot Week: A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 3)

Seeing the birds at the parrot park was a joy, as was giving the friendly feathered friends treats from our hands. As we followed the suggested route through the park, we came upon my favorite aviary of all – the one that we could go inside!

The aviary that welcomed human visitors

Several different species were housed in the aviary open to visitors. The birds came to us, if they wished. There were plenty of perches where the birds could retreat if they didn’t want to visit with the papegaairazzi (zing!).

Peach-faced Lovebird
Peach-faced Lovebirds chillaxing in the aviary

Please forgive (or enjoy!) this series of gratuitous me-feeding-parrots pictures. The short video shows a Cockatiel on my shoulder. It looks like I’m encouraging her to kiss me, but she started it, honestly!!

Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure
Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure

Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure
Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure

Alexandrine Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet


Hand-feeding & kissyface Cockatiel

You can imagine this was a really special experience for me, and I loved meeting all of the birds up close and personal. Unfortunately, the pet trade is no friend to parrot species in general, and so almost everywhere you look in the park, there are signs like this one.

“Don’t buy any parrots, because parrots live long. Sometimes longer than even yourself.”

This post concludes Parrot Week on the blog. I’ll have one final post on the Papegaaienpark Veldhoven next week – because there are more than parrots at the park!

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Parrot Week: A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 2)

Following yesterday’s introduction to our visit to this wonderful sanctuary for parrots and other animals, today I’d like to share some photos of our encounters with the residents.

After passing the initial “quarantine” aviaries, we visited the larger macaws and the unflighted birds in an outdoor, uncaged area. By the time we reached this area we’d only spent about a half hour in the park and I was having a ball. We walked further, finding larger aviaries full of many more of these social, noisy, happy birds. But we weren’t just viewing these magnificent creatures – we were interacting with them, namely by providing them with treats.

parrot noms
Parrot noms. The hard shells of these pinenuts were discarded for the tiny nutmeat inside

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
My brother-in-law Patrick feeds a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

At each aviary, some of the birds would approach us as we walked by. These large cockatoos and parrots have huge, powerful hooked beaks, but they were all, without exception, extremely polite and gentle when reaching for offered treats. The park provided feeding sticks for visitors to use to pass nuts to the birds, but I didn’t see any need for them. While the birds were polite with us, they also displayed extreme courtesy to each other… most of the time! The African Greys did get a bit loud with their protests.

Hungry, friendly birds

African Greys
African Grey Parrots

African Greys
Father-in-law Ben feeds African Greys

More friendly, hungry beaks to feed

While most of the birds seemed eager for treats, in each aviary there were many other birds socializing with each other in the background, paying us no mind. Then there were the handful that were interested in us, but not in our treats. A few times a bird would catch our attention, and then, instead of reaching out for a treat, would turn its head away from us, pressing against the fencing. These birds, former beloved family pets, were only looking for some contact, a scratch, or a pet. They just about broke my heart.

Senegal Parrot
Arthur pets a Senegal Parrot

Western Corella
I’m scratching the head of a beautiful Western Corella

I was falling in love with the birds left and right. And there was more to come. We got even closer! Stay tuned.

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Parrot Week: A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 1)

In August we visited the Papegaaienpark (parrot park) Veldhoven, a sort of parrot, bird and animal rescue center and sanctuary near Eindhoven. The park took in its first birds in 1987 and is run by the Dutch Foundation for the Refuge and Care of Parrots. Besides providing a forever home for unwanted parrots, the sanctuary cares for birds and animals caught by customs agents at Dutch airports, and other confiscated exotic animals.

The facility covers almost 20 acres and is open to the public 363 days per year. There are over 500 enclosures housing thousands of parrots, birds, mammals and other animals. A team of about 50 volunteers works with the park’s veterinarians and management staff.

The entrance to the Papegaaienpark Veldhoven

We arrived shortly after the park opened, and began our visit by walking by large outdoor cages housing newer arrivals. When a bird first comes to the sanctuary, it is housed in a small aviary alone or with just one or two other birds. The birds remain there until the staff can determine the bird’s temperament and which larger aviary will be the best fit.

Quarantine area
Birds are initially housed in these “quarantine” cages alone or in pairs

Salmon-crested Cockatoo
Salmon-crested Cockatoos

Walking on, we passed a large open area where bigger parrots who were unable to fly were housed. This large yard was surrounded by aviaries housing large macaws.

Open area for unflighted parrots
The unflighted birds could climb up the branches to perch; they could also retreat to an enclosed shelter.

White-crested Cockatoo at play
White-crested Cockatoo

White-crested Cockatoo
White-crested Cockatoo

Scarlet Macaw
Scarlet Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw
Hyacinth Macaw

While these beautiful birds were wonderful to see, we weren’t just looking at them, we got to feed them, too. More on that in the next post.

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Parrot Week BPW: Rose-ringed Parakeet

I’m kicking off a week of blog posts on parrots with this Bird Photography Weekly submission. The number of parrots on my life list is very small – ONE! We spotted this Rose-ringed Parakeet at the Taj Mahal in India back in 2006. This one is a juvenile, since it hasn’t developed its ring yet. We saw others on the India trip, but this was the first.

I’ve also seen feral parrots in a few places: Monks in Madrid and Rose-ringed in my back yard in Leiden. I find the number of parrots on my life list far too small. Hope to change that someday!

Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Parrot Week | 6 Comments

BPW: Totally Nuts!

I’ve been well pleased with the birds we’ve had stopping at our peanut feeder this fall so far, especially the regular visits from both Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches. Both species were rare back yard sightings in the past. I set our Wingscapes Birdcam out to capture some images over the last few days.

There were a few surprises – birds that normally aren’t considered nut feeders. These guys didn’t stay at the feeder too long.

Dark-eyed Junco
Juncos prefer to forage on the ground – usually not on feeders

House Finch
House Finches don’t seem to be big peanut fans

European Starling & Red-winged Blackbird
These guys looked lost (European Starling | Red-winged Blackbird)

Pine Siskin
OMG a Pine Siskin! Haven’t seen these in the yard for ourselves yet – thanks Birdcam!

Then there were the expected birds. I’d like to see Red-bellied Woodpeckers more often, and these nuts seem to bring them in more than the suet & nuts in the shell (yay!).

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadees snatch nuts throughout the day

Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpeckers seem to visit more than…

Downy Woodpecker
… male Downy Woodpeckers

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker seems to prefer our suet feeder – nice to see a peanut visit

Red-breasted Nuthatch
At least two individual Red-breasted Nuthatches visit regularly

I’m really happy to have both of our regular nuthatches visiting on a daily basis. Last year we had one Red-breasted stop by for one or two days, and that was it! Now several individuals of both species are visiting daily. The White-breasted is a new yard bird this year! And boy, do they love the nuts. They also like to pose for the camera. I found a lot of photos like these:

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Hopefully they’ll all continue visiting during the winter. Tomorrow, though, I’m putting the camera on a finch sock or something. I mean, really, a Pine Siskin!?!?

Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Wingscapes Birdcam, Yard Birds | 10 Comments

Whoopers on their way

Operation Migration [OM] has been working to reintroduce critically endangered Whooping Cranes into the wild since 2001. Their goal is to establish a migratory population of Whooping Cranes in the eastern part of North America. Each fall, part of their work involves flying first-year birds from their breeding grounds in Wisconsin down to wintering grounds in Florida with the aid of ultralight aircraft. On Sunday, October 31st, Arthur and I were lucky enough to see the cranes as they departed their Fall 2010 stop in Winnebago County, Illinois. Arthur wrote up a nice post, which contains more information about OM, on our personal blog: Whooping Cranes and Operation Migration in Winnebago County, IL.

Volunteers with OM were on hand at the viewing site to let us know what the pilots were doing. The first step was to test the flight conditions. Once the initial flight was made, and conditions were deemed suitable for flight, the ultralight planes circled back to get the birds*, and they were on their way. Two ultralight planes accompanied the flock of 10 birds. The first plane appeared in the distance.

OM ultralight aircraft

OM ultralight aircraft

As it approached, we could hear other crane viewers shouting – “there they are!” and “I see birds!”

Soon we could all see the flock of birds-and-aircraft heading our way. The flightpath brought them directly over us as we waited in the viewing area. It was very exciting!

OM class of 2010

OM class of 2010

OM class of 2010

OM class of 2010

I stopped taking photos and stood in awe as they passed right over my head. I snapped a couple more pictures as they headed off towards the sun.

OM class of 2010

OM class of 2010

Here is the group of “craniacs” at the viewing site shortly after the flyover.

OM Flyover spectators

Over the next few weeks, the cranes will follow the ultralight aircraft as they make their way to Florida. Several stops along the migration route provide viewing locations, so you can go and view the birds flying overhead, as we did. You can also watch the birds online via the Operation Migration Crane Cam, and follow along with their progress via the Field Journal. You can help support Operation Migration by making a donation, becoming a member, or purchasing Operation Migration merchandise.

*This is an extreme simplification of the process. Follow the Field Journal to learn more about the process of teaching these young endangered birds how to migrate.

Posted in Endangered, Illinois | 2 Comments

BPW: White-crowned Sparrow

Went looking for Short-eared Owls at Rollins Savanna the other night. We weren’t the only ones looking around. Found this friendly juvenile White-crowned Sparrow in the parking lot.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

No luck on the Short-eared Owls, but the sunset did its best to make up for it.



Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, LCFPD | 5 Comments